Ethics as a Path: Kantian Dimensions of Early Buddhist Ethics

Whitaker, Justin. 2017. Ethics as a Path: Kantian Dimensions of Early Buddhist Ethics. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

In recent decades, Buddhist scholars have begun serious exploration into the theoretical dimensions of Buddhist ethics. However, due to the diversity of moral proclamations found in traditional texts and commentaries, it has been difficult to formulate a widely acceptable theory of Buddhist ethics. Working with the textual analyses of the Buddhist Pāli Canon and recent scholars of Buddhism, I present arguments for viewing early Buddhist ethics as broadly Kantian (deontological) in nature. The methodology follows that of previous authors in Buddhist ethics and in Comparative Religious Ethics with a focus on philosophical ethics and historical and textual studies.

In constructing a framework of Buddhist ethics, this work draws from the ancient sources, primarily the Buddhist Pāli Canon, as well as the philological and historical work of previous Buddhist commentators and scholars. A similar construction of the ethics of Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804) is based primarily on the recent writings on both the philosophy and life of Kant, and for source material critical English editions of Kant's primary works. The uniqueness of this work is found in the discussion of Buddhist ethics in the context of its theories of human nature and cosmology and secondarily in its revaluation of Kantian thought as a legitimate interlocutor for scholars of Buddhist ethics. This Kantian perspective, when combined with the insights gained from virtue ethics and consequentialist perspectives, provides a fuller understanding of Buddhist ethics. The findings suggest that Buddhist ethics may claim not only many of the same strengths, but also suffer the same weaknesses, as Kantian deontological moral theory.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Buddhism, ethics, philosophy, early Buddhism, Immanuel Kant, comparative religious ethics

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30 April 2017

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Date Deposited:

16 May 2017 07:22

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:48


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